2006 Season NFL Football Past Picks

January 14, 2007

This pick was released to clients on July 31, 2012 at 1:09AM ET.

14

New England at Los Angeles

Sunday 01/14 04:30 PM Eastern

3 units on New England +5 (-110) (risk 3 to return 5.73)  RESULT: WIN

The Chargers bring in a 14-2 record into this game. All season long they have been a team that has steamrolled through their competition. They have a high octane offense with the best player in football running the ball. Relatively, New England is under the radar. But not to us. This Patis team 13-4 and boasts a very good defense. Many believe this Pats team is not of the same calibre of the teams that captured three recent Super Bowls. We believe that they are. The last two times they took home the Lombardi Trophy, they had a dominating record. But don't forget, they were 11-5 in 01-02 and still ran over everyone including the high octane St. Louis Rams that no-one gave them a chance to stop. We need reiterate something we mentioned last week when we took the Pats to bounce the Jets. This New England team has given up less points than any under the Bellichick era! They have the second best scoring defense in the league behind Baltimore. That's the kind of team you want to back in January. But what about offense? Not so good, eh? Think again. New England has proven that they can score, and they can score against anyone. They went down to Jacksonville in a meaningful game, and scored 24 on a Jaguars team that was giving up a very stingy 8 ppg at home. It was the most anyone scored on the Jags at home all year. Brady is as good as it gets in finding open receivers - no matter the name on the back of the jersey. This offense is as healthy as it has been all season. New England has reached 30+ points six times and over the past four games they are scoring 35.3 ppg. That's as good as it gets and surpasses even the output of the vaunted Chargers. Many argue that New England does not have the play-makers it has had in the past at wide receiver. But ask yourself how many Hall of Famer's or future Hall of Famer's  Brady has thrown to in three Superbowl wins - or for that matter his entire career? The answer is zero. That makes what he has done even more special. The Pats thrive in January and this team is firing on both sides of the ball right now. The last four games they have turned the ball over just once, while they have 10 takeaways. You may be a bit nervous to back them on the road, though, especially after they lost to Denver last year. Do they need the Foxboro January cold to win in the postseason? No! The fact is that they have been on the road for nine playoff games since 85-86 and have gone 6-3 ATS and won 5 of the games outright. In a league in which home field advantage in the playoffs is huge, that is nothing short of incredible. But we haven't talked much about San Diego yet. This is afterall the favored team to win it all. They are great, right? They are an excellent football team. How will New England stop LaDanian Tomlinson and Phillip Rivers? The San Diego offensive numbers are astounding and it would appear on the surface that no one can stop them. But we like to dig below the surface. Here we see a different story. San Diego to their credit beat 14 of 16 teams on their schedule and had a great regular season. That road however was paved with cupcake opponents week after week. They played four playoff teams the entire season. Two of those playoff teams (Seattle and KC twice) arguably didn't deserve to be in the playoffs however. The only top team they played this year was Baltimore. They ended up going 2-2 vs. the playoffs teams, but the numbers are very revealing. They gave up more first downs, they scored just an average of 20.0 ppg, and averaged just 334 yards a game. They squeaked one out vs. a mediocre Seattle team 20-17 even though they had a +2 turnover advantage. They gave up four more first downs in that game as well, even with two extra possessions. Shouldn't a dominant team win big in that situation? The only real test the Chargers had was Baltimore and San Diego lost that game even though they had a +2 turnover advantage! We mentioned above New England reached 30 points in six games. Consider that the vaunted Super-Charger offense reached the mark 7 times. San Diego reached that 30 point mark in 6 of their first 10 games, but just once in their last six. That's not peaking. That's slowing down. Yes, there are 14 wins here, and yes the offense is tops statistically, but consider that they feasted on very weak defensive teams. They scored 48 against #32 San Francisco. They scored 40 on #31 Tennessee. They put up 27 on #29 Arizona and 38 on #28 St. Louis. They got 32 against #22 Cleveland. Now let's look at the other end of the spectrum when they played defenses that were at least in the top half of the league. They got just 13 vs #1 Baltimore. They had 24 vs #10 Buffalo. They scored 27 and 20 vs. #11 Kansas City. They had 23 vs #12 Pittsbrugh. They did score big vs. #9 Denver, but Denver's numbers are skewed. Were they really the #9 ranked defense? They gave up 7 ppg in their first six games, but during the stretch between the two San Diego games, they were averaging 27.2 ppg allowed - goot for one of the worst defenses in the league. This 2006-2007 San Diego team reminds us of the 04-05 Chargers. That team faced the NY Jets in the playoffs. San Diego came in winners of 9 of their last 10, averaging over 30 ppg in the stretch. In that year too they had played a weak schedule, though. No one gave the Jets a chance but New York held San Diego to 17 points and won the game. We would rather be on a defense come NFL playoff time than an offense. So the edge there goes to the Pats. But the nice thing about New England is that they have both. They also have arguably the best QB-Coach combination in NFL history with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. If there is one coach in the NFL that can figure out how to stymie LaDanian Tomlinson, it is Belichick. Belichick lives for this kind of challenge (think what he did to the mighty and apparently unstoppable Peyton Manning in years past). This guy always finds a way to take your strenght and limit it. Both teams are very good and this game should be very tight with a field goal from either side likely to decide things. That makes 5 points very big, so we will take the Pats here.

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